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How to green your investments

This little piggy went earn, earn, earn all the way home. Photo: iStockphoto If you're thinking green capitalism is one of the most powerful environmental forces in the world, you're right on the money. Today, surprising as it may seem, some of the world's leading financial institutions and biggest corporations are taking earth-positive actions -- not necessarily out of the kindness of their hearts, but because polluting and spewing CO2 is lousy for business, and because greener operations lead to fatter profits. This winter, for example, hundreds of financial leaders and investors representing $20 trillion in capital flocked to a …

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The education of Warren Buffett

Why did the guru cancel six coal plants?

One of the biggest climate stories of 2007 never made it to the business pages. It's about how Warren Buffett, with no fanfare, quietly walked away from coal, cancelling six proposed plants. Buffett used to love coal. His involvement with it began when Berkshire Hathaway bought MidAmerican Energy Holdings in 1999. MidAmerican was a big operator of coal plants, and with natural gas prices edging toward a huge leap upwards -- bringing coal back into favor -- it appeared to be a typically savvy Buffett move. In 2006, Buffett picked up another utility, PacifiCorp, which includes Rocky Mountain Power and …

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Taking care of rural coal workers

This WSJ piece on the battle over coal in rural (and important electoral swing) states is frustrating. On one hand, you have enviros, characterized as urbanites concerned exclusively with global warming. On the other hand, you have rural residents, characterized as concerned exclusively with keeping their mining jobs. Why is there no mention of the ways Dem candidates and enviros are attempting to address those concerns? No mention of the ways Obama and Clinton propose to use auction revenue to help these states out, retrain their workers, create new green jobs for them? I don't blame the reporters. The candidates …

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Ausra

Via Deathridesahorse, here's a video of Ausra ("utility-scale solar power") CEO David Mills explaining Ausra's solar thermal technology:

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Markets, not technologies

A long-term extension of the solar investment tax credit is vital

Joe is correct to point out that solar energy is not a monolith -- but he's got the categories wrong. The relevant division is not between technologies but markets. Market No. 1 is distributed generation solar -- that is, solar sited on the customer side of the meter, serving on-site load. Think rooftops. This market will be served almost exclusively by photovoltaics (for electricity -- hot water is another case) -- and the relevant cost comparison is the retail price of electricity, not wholesale generation values. Market No. 2 is utility-scale solar -- that is, central station generation for wholesale …

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Coke: Still 'it' with the kids

Coca-Cola and McD’s top brands among teens, study says

Photo: Taneli Mielikäinen There has been a lot of great work in the last decade to wake kids up to alternatives to industrial food. Here and there, farm-to-school programs have been launched, soft drinks banished from cafeterias, books like Eric Schlosser's Chew on This have emerged. Yet clearly, much more work needs to be done. Seems that teens are still gulping down Coke and flocking to McDonald's (when they're not heading for Burger King, evidently seen by kids as the main alternative to McD's). I'm getting this from an article in BrandWeek on the latest marketing poll on teens. Evidently, …

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Succeeding in the free market

One of my favorite writers, Jonathan Chait, has an article in The New Republic on "the latest in global warming denialism" (the latest being acknowledging it exists but refusing to do anything about it). It mostly goes over familiar ground, but I wanted to call out one part where Chait makes an unwarranted concession. Discussing recent efforts to repeal some oil industry tax breaks in order to fund tax credits for renewable energy, Chait writes: Objection number one is that repealing the tax break to pay for renewable energy amounts to "taxing successful energy sources and subsidizing unsuccessful ones," as …

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Cheap clean coal now dirty, expensive

The WSJ energy blog points out that skyrocketing demand for coal in the developing world is rapidly driving up the commodity price. (And WSJ proper points out that rising prices for coal mean rising prices for steel.) Meanwhile, Reuters says "clean coal" is "elusive" and the head of one of Australia's biggest energy companies -- AGL -- says that coal's days are numbered: ... Michael Fraser said it is unlikely any new coal generators will be built without significant improvements in technology and the ability to capture and store carbon. Mr Fraser says he is accelerating the company's investment in …

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MoJo uncovers the eco-spies

Mother Jones has a blockbuster scoop today on the private security firm that spied on green groups on behalf of corporate clients: A private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records -- donor lists, detailed financial statements, …

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World Bank should get out of carbon-offset market, says report

Carbon-offset dealings by the World Bank have been criticized (and not for the first time) in a report released Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies. In the past two years, the report charges, the bank has loaned $1.5 billion to fossil-fuel companies to make minor greenhouse-gas reductions. It then sells carbon credits for those reductions, says coauthor Daphne Wysham, "takes its 13 percent cut, and everyone is happy." (Well, except the planet and its advocates -- the bank has come under much protest recently for funding a massive coal plant in India.) The bank would be better off getting …